The History of the Life of the Late Mr. Jonathan Wild the Great, published in 1743 as the third volume of the Miscellanies, is, at first glance, the least marriage-oriented of Henry Fielding’s novels. Its subject matter, the life and exploits of Jonathan Wild, a thief-taker and gang leader notorious for his highly successful double-dealing with the criminal underworld and the law, has seemingly little relation to the courtship plots of the plays and novels discussed so far in this book. Drawing on the familiar equation of heroes, military leaders, and petty criminals that had been exploited for nearly two decades by the numerous criminal biographies, pamphlets, and ballads dedicated to the character of Wild (1682–1725), Fielding embarked upon a new literary experiment, using sustained irony as his main rhetorical device. As he made evident through allusions and rhetorical flourishes, he conflated such diverse genres as ancient epic, modern and classical biography, political satire, and picaresque novel in order to explore the hidden motivations of great men and common rogues, emphasizing their shared humanity. These being the most prominent aspects of Jonathan Wild, criticism tends to focus on the novel’s political dimension, its emulation of serious historical biography (and Fielding’s ironic resort to a disreputable character as a subject), or on Fielding’s satire of the corruption of language by statesmen and their flatterers. 1 Two interrelated debates touching on these themes have proved prevalent. First, the extent to which the analogy Fielding drew between Wild and corrupt statesmen was meant to be read as a direct satire on Robert Walpole’s administration, which ended a few months before the publication of this novel. 2 Second, whether Fielding had already written Jonathan Wild, or at least a substantial draft of it, before the publication of Joseph Andrews in February 1742. 3